Sunday, 31 July 2011

Finding Neverland Review

From what I understand, this movie is loosely based on actual events.  If that is true, the actual events are very sad indeed.  Using the backdrop of the creation of Peter Pan to tell the story of a man who finds his way is quite interesting.  But, coming away from this one, I really don't know what to feel.

It starts out pretty slow and, to be honest, a bit boring.  But then it does pick up the pace and you find yourself being quite entertained.  However, one of the problems is that it is very predictable.  You pretty much know that, what happens has to happen because of the whole melancholic tone of the entire film.  That aspect is balanced off by superior performances from Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet though.  They both perform quite strong.  But that is really no surprise.  They are both very good at their craft.

One aspect of the film did bother me a bit.  The switches between fantasy and reality were kind of difficult to watch.  This might be because sometimes the transitions were too subtle.  For me, it seemed to hurt the flow a bit.  But it was needed for the very powerful ending (I won't give it away).

Overall, I say see it if you come across it.  But it isn't a lazy Sunday afternoon movie.  It would put you to sleep if you watched it in that setting.  If you are in the mood for a serious, melancholic drama though, watch it.

Winnie the Pooh Review

If you're anything like me, you remember sitting at home on a cold Sunday evening waiting for the Wide World of Disney to come on CBC.  You waited with anticipation to see what they would be showing.  Sometimes you were happy and sometimes you were disappointed.  The two that never disappointed me were Winnie the Pooh and Sport Goofy.  All those feelings came flooding back this afternoon when I watched the new Winnie the Pooh.

The thing I think I liked the best about this movie is the fact that they animated it just like the old one.  They didn't try to go 3D or CGI or anything stupid like that.  They stuck to the original formula and it worked.  There's no attempt to modernize the characters or story.  Because of that, it has a great nostalgic value.

It is also very cleverly written.  For the entire story, you feel like you are actually in the mind of a child playing in his room with his collection of stuffed animals.  The story follows this type of meandering imagination quite well.  In that respect, it is very much like A Town Called Panic.  The jokes are very well delivered by the voice over cast.  But it also doesn't hurt that all of the characters are complete morons.  I spent most of the 70 minutes laughing or at the very least, smiling.

See it.  It is a great escape from reality that makes you feel good.  And, if you have children, they should like it too.  Now if I could just get them to make a Sport Goofy movie ...

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Casino Royale Review

I must admit that I didn't know much about Daniel Craig when I heard them announce that he would be playing James Bond.  I was upset because I absolutely loved the Pierce Brosnan Bond movies.  But then I found out that they were not only changing Bond, they were doing a reboot and starting Bond out from the beginning.  So a replacement was necessary.  I'm not too upset because, for me, all four Brosnan Bond movies have great rewatchability.  And, after this and a few other movies, I have come to be a bit of a Craig fan.  He makes a really good Bond, especially one that is just learning his spy craft.  It hasn't all become "old-hat" for the character and Craig really plays that well.

If a reboot was necessary, they picked a good novel to base it on.  Casino Royale was the first book after all.  The film does a good job keeping some of the elements of the book (the car crash and torture) while updating it for modern times.  They needed to replace the baccarat with poker to remain relevant to today's audience (had it been made 10-15 years ago they would have used Blackjack).  Also, to capitalize on the success of the Bourne movies, they have reinvented Bond into a more character driven franchise.  While they keep some of the elements that made Bond famous (evil villain, hot women, cool cars, exotic locations), they have either pushed them firmly into the background or made them much more believable.  There is no more threat of world domination or a cataclysmic event.  The gadgets are also gone in this one.  While I did miss Q Branch, the actual advances in commercially available technology were starting to make it irrelevant.  I can buy sunglasses that are a camera now so Bond having something like that isn't so special anymore.

Overall, I'd say this is a really good restart to the Bond franchise.  It will be interesting to see the character develop through Daniel Craig for a few movies.  (Yes, I've seen Quantum of Solace but it's been a while.  I will review it here when I see it again soon).  There are just a couple of beefs I have with this one and they are minor.  First, if you're going to reboot, reboot fully.  Lose Judi Dench as M.  She's never been that good at it anyways.  Second, the poker tournament act went on too long and, in turn, made the movie too long.  They could have done a montage style and gotten it all across.  Third, the last twenty minutes seem tacked on and out of place.  But, from my understanding, they are doing a three part story arc on this reboot so it needs to be set up for the next one.  I can live with that.  Fourth, there are a few bits of dialogue that didn't fit into the new Bond.  Some cheesy lines would have felt more at home in the previous twenty movies.  It's almost as if they were afraid to take the change all the way.

All in all, it's a good spy movie.  If you like the Bourne movies, you should like Casino Royale.  I say see it.  But, if you want the more unrealistic fantasy based Bond, there's 20 previous movies you'll enjoy more.  It all depends on your mood.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Mr Popper's Penguins Review

Yes, I saw it.  Stop snickering.  I actually wanted to see it when I first heard of it because it looked like a fun little diversion during which I could turn my brain off.  Sometimes, you just have to go see a cute little feel good movie that doesn't make you think.  That's all this movie is and it doesn't try to be anything else.  It is little more than a retelling of Liar, Liar.  Jim Carrey plays a jerk of a father who, through an extraordinary situation, learns a valuable life lesson.  That's it.  Most of the movie is very thin.  While there is a plot, it moves a bit choppy.  There are conflicts that never get fully resolved and character development and changes that seem to happen out of the blue.

But it needs to be that way because it is a kids movie.  Everything about this movie is aimed at the children.  They go out of their way to not swear at all and to keep it G rated.  When taken in that context, it is very good.  Everything moves fast enough and the penguins' cute little antics are well spaced to keep the kids happy and entertained.  The theatre was almost sold out tonight and there were tons of kids there.  I heard very little of the kids being fidgety and bored.  That makes it a good kids movie.  In this way, it was better than Zookeeper even though I enjoyed that one more.  But Zookeeper is more for grown ups and, in spite of my juvenile behaviour, I am a grown up.  The one "beef" I have about keeping it a kids movie is that they go through all that trouble to make it appropriate and then, for the end credits, they play Vanilla Ice's Ice Ice Baby which is actually quite a violent song (pay attention to the lyrics).  But that really is minor.  Who's going to watch the credits?

Technically, this one is pretty 50-50.  While he was entertaining and decent, you could tell Carrey wasn't giving this one his all.  He was much better in Liar, Liar and The Truman Show (two movies I would recommend and will review next time I watch them).  The rest of the acting was average.  Not bad but not great either.  Where this movie really shines, technically, is with the penguins.  The CGI effects are very well done there.  The music keeps it pretty light all the way through with that stereotypical Danny Elfman-esque score that is used in feelgood movies.

If you are looking for a good diversion for your kids that will entertain you as well, see it.  Also see it if you feel a little down and need a fun little pick-me-up (that was my situation tonight).  It is definitely worth it.  Delay seeing it if you want anything with depth.  There is none.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon Review

Why is it that when the Transformers are in their robot state, their car/vehicle/etc. panels are all scratched to shit but, when they turn into their vehicle form, they have immaculate paint jobs?  That is just one of the many, many plot holes and problems with this movie.  Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy it somewhat.  First, it is way better than Revenge of the Fallen.  I go to see these movies because they have cool transforming robots that cause massive destruction.  With Dark of the Moon, you get lots and lots of that.  Visually, it is a very appealing action movie.  There are a lot of really cool shots and it would appear that Michael Bay fired his vertigo-ridden dwarf as his main camera operator because you don't really have those  played out "spin around the model" shots.

The sad thing is, in order to get all of that really cool action, you have to put up with a lot of crap.  In that respect, Dark of the Moon is no different than the other Transformers movies.  While, of the three, it is Shia LaBeouf's best performance, he is still cheesy.  Everyone else is cheesy too.  Furthermore, if you are going to go through the trouble of getting rid of Megan Fox and throwing a blatant insult at her in the movie, at least replace her with something better.  Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, while nice to look at from the neck down, is just plain awful.  The rest of the acting and writing is no different from the other movies.  No better, no worse.  There are still the terrible efforts for comic relief and at one point, I even said "oh for f**k's sake" out loud.  The story is easier to follow than Revenge of the Fallen but it's really minor.  I will say that I still liked John Turturro's character and the addition of John Malkovich was well done.  With those two only, the comic relief was OK.  Finally, with regards to the acting, we have another example of good actors not being able to save bad writing.  Frances MacDormond and Patrick Dempsey are two good actors that are horrible in this.

It is flat out too long.  About two hours in, I started getting a headache from the 3D and intense motion and thought it was time to wrap it up.  There are so many things that could be cut out.  Take out the crap (ie. everything with Sam's parents for starters) and make a much more watchable 110 minute action movie.  And while you're at it, we could have done without Steven Spielberg's and Michael Bay's political agendas getting pushed on us.  I have no problem with celebrities using their celebrity to raise awareness on an issue but leave it out of the movie.  I do not pay you to feed me your propaganda.  And, oh, Mr. Bay, ripping off lines and concepts from multiple movies is not good movie making at all.  For shame!  And they're giant, technologically advanced robots.  By now, Bumblebee should be able to talk dammit!

Anyways, enough of my soapbox.  Even though it is better than Revenge of the Fallen, I recommend that you don't bother seeing it.  Unless you want only action and mayhem, you will spend more time rolling your eyes than anything else.  If all you want is action, it's got plenty and you may like it.  Finally, we know there will be a fourth movie.  They make too much money for there not to be one.  But they've done a really good job in setting it up to be a failure so maybe the end is in sight.  (That's all I'm going to say on that.  I don't want to spoil it.)

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Fletch Lives Review

Many of you are probably wondering why I even bothered to watch this much less review it.  Let me start by saying I really like Chevy Chase.  His comic timing and talents are quite unique.  He's the best I've ever seen at performing the deadpan, subtle humour that I really like.  The only way yo describe it is that it feels like it's over the top but actually isn't.  I know that doesn't make sense.

In Fletch Lives, you get the same subtle and understated, yet hilarious jokes that you get in Fletch or Vacation.  There was even a point where I had Karl rewind it because I thought I saw something funny in the background.  Turns out that old guy was trying to feel up a lady while they weren't even in focus.  In that manner, Fletch Lives provides the same deadpan humour that a Leslie Nielson movie provides without the over the top antics and schtick.  You really have to pay attention to get a lot of the jokes because Chase delivers them in such a nonchalant manner.

So, it is funny.  But what about the rest of it?  Writing? Acting? Directing?  The only way to answer those questions is with one sentence.  It was released in the 80s.  From the entirely technical standpoint, this is your stereotypical 80s comedy.  There is nothing in it that is groundbreaking or different.  Except maybe for the fact that you actually don't see any breasts.  It even has that Phil Collins-esque "In the Air Tonight" drum beat led music all over it.

When all is said and done, see it.  There is plenty of humour to keep you entertained.  But, if you have already seen it, it isn't the best way to get your Chevy Chase fix.  Fletch is better (as per usual for a series).  And so is Vacation.  But it isn't a waste of time by any stretch.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Super Size Me Review

I felt guilty for badmouthing this movie without seeing it in my review of Frekonomics last night.  So I got a copy and decided to watch it.  Then, I could actually give an opinion with some credibility.  After watching it this afternoon, I do have to admit that I was a bit misinformed on the whole thing and that it isn't as extreme as I thought.  However, i was not that far off on my assessment of Morgan Spurlock's work.

It isn't necessarily an attack on McDonald's.  It is a challenge to the fast food and grocery industries to be more responsible.  The vehicle of eating only McDonald's comes from a judge's ruling in a case against the company that challenges whether or not eating their food causes obesity and the problems that come with it.  That being said, the premise is still ridiculous.  Spurlock even says that McDonald's refers to people who eat there only once per week are Heavy Users.  He was eating there 21 times per week.  Only an idiot would think that you could eat only McDonald's and not almost kill yourself.

It also wasn't as sensationalistic as I thought it would have been.  On that, I will admit I was wrong.  it is a very compelling look at the industry and Spurlock does make some very good arguments.  However, like Michael Moore did in Fahrenheit 9/11, Spurlock makes mention of some irrelevant things to push his argument and a documentary will lose a lot of credibility with me when that is done.  Two examples stick in my mind and paint a good picture of this.  First, he says that the same company that supplies food to schools also supplies it to prisons.  This was done in a tone that would suggest it is a bad thing.  Who cares?  Is it ok to give prisons subpar food?  If you supply prisons does that make you an evil company?  It was a completely irrelevant message.  Second, he refers tot he artist that painted a lot of the "evil Ronald McDonald" paintings as an "Artistic Genius."  That is giving your own opinion and pushing your own agenda and that has no place in a documentary.  There are numerous examples like this that make the film lose a lot of credibility with me.

Ultimately, I would say don't see it.  It is an hour and a half of an argument that common sense should have already given to you.  But I will say that it isn't as extreme in the sensationalistic attitude that I thought it would be.  It does have a bit of an air of "holier than thou" to it but not as much as I would have assumed.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Freakonomics Review

Steph's pick for Movie Night at Karl's was the first documentary that we have had.  So it was interesting to see everyone's reactions.  While I don't hate documentaries, I must say that I am not a huge fan normally.  I prefer to get my non-fiction stories from places like Discovery or the National Geographic Channel.  But, a feature length documentary can be good as long as it sticks to facts and doesn't speculate on things like the motives of its subject (ie. Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 did way too much speculating on motives in order to attack the Right Wing that it lost all credibility with me).  They also need to stay within the realm of reality in order to portray the truth on a subject.  I hate to break it to you, Morgan Spurlock, but eating only McDonald's for 30 days does not prove that it is a dangerous and evil organization and that they need to make sweeping changes.  All it proves is that excess is dangerous.  F-9/11 and Super Size Me were perhaps the two biggest and best received documentaries in the past decade so I'm a bit skeptical when it comes to watching one (An Inconvenient Truth should probably get a mention too for being a big one) (I should also mention that I haven't actually seen Super Size me but I do know that is the premise of it and it only takes a little common sense to see it as ridiculous - I may watch it if the mood strikes me sometime.  If I do, I will review it and admit if I'm wrong).

Given those parameters, I would say that Freakonomics is a very well done documentary.  It uses statistics to study situations with questionable causes and find the truth as to those causes.  On the surface, this sounds like an unbelievably dry topic.  However, the film makers they chose to tell the stories did so in a very entertaining way.  I must give Mr. Spurlock some credit here as his segment on people's names possibly determining their success in life was very entertaining and stuck to facts without speculation or some kooky experiment.  The only one I found a bit dry and out of place was the sumo wrestling segment.  It relied less on statistics to prove any causality and was more of a conspiracy theory story.  The final two big segments on the decrease in crime in the early 90s and whether or not ninth graders respond to monetary rewards to get better grades were also quite entertaining and informative.  If you watch it in a group, you may also find yourself in some good-hearted debate after the movie which I'm pretty sure should happen after a good documentary.

As for the technical aspects of the film, I cannot really comment too much on cinematography, plot and acting because it is a documentary and, therefore, is judged by different rules.  But I will say that I came away glad to have watched it.  I also felt a bit smarter and entertained at the same time.  So, from my perspective, it is a good movie.

Even if you aren't a fan of documentaries, I'd say see it.  It takes dry topics and makes them entertaining.  There were 8 people watching tonight and I think we all laughed out loud at some spots so that's a good sign.  Finally, it isn't too long so you don't lose interest.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Review

Remember when you used to watch the Transformers cartoon and it had really crappy dialogue, bad voiceovers and a weak, thin story line?  And you watched it anyways because it was about an alien race of robots that could turn into cool stuff?  Let's just say that Revenge of the Fallen is very true to the original cartoons.  We watch both for the cool fighting robots and begrudgingly put up with the crap like the overly melodramatic lines spoken by all of the robots and most of the humans.  With the exception of it having really cool effects and destruction and carnage galore, it is a terrible movie.  I will now give you my reasons for that judgment.

Most of the new characters are junk.  The new twin Autobots are borderline racist and Wheelie, the RC Truck Decepticon is nothing but a ripoff of Futurama's Roberto.  Sam's roommate is annoying and extraneous; sort of like your appendix.  You want to pre-emptively get rid of him in case he makes things worse.  We could easily have reintroduced John Turturro without his help.  And they should have brought him back sooner.  The story doesn't progress with any pace until he makes his first appearance.

It raises too many logic questions and new revelations that really distract you from enjoying the movie.  Why would the twins take the form of a shitty ice cream truck?  Why would they have to wait until the military provided new cars to take the form of rather than just drive past something cool like Bumblebee did (I know GM wanted to promote their last-ditch effort cars that nobody would buy but that was just sad)?  Since when can a Decepticon take a seemingly human form?  Why is the SR-71 a flatulent, old, British crank?  Touching the shard gives Sam all of this knowledge now?  Why not when he first held the whole cube?  The roommate has a conspiracy theory empire and didn't know the government could track him via his cell phone? Puh-lease!

Michael Bay shamelessly promotes his old movies again.  It's almost like he knows Revenge of the Fallen is so bad so he doesn't want us to forget some of the other stuff he's done and judge him solely on this.

It's too long.  eg. We don't need to see Sam's mom wig out on pot brownies.  Sad attempt at comic relief that didn't further the plot at all.  In fact, all of the attempts at comic relief (with the exception of Turturro) are lame and cheesy and most could have been cut.  Michael Bay, I challenge you to cut out the crap.  Remove the half hearted attempts at comic relief, spend some time writing a good story, whittle about 30 minutes of all of the junk and make a movie that will not make me leave my childhood behind for good.

Don't see it.  It's confusing, mostly boring and worse than the first (another I said not to see).

Monday, 18 July 2011

Transformers Review

I figured I should watch the first two Transformers movies again before going to the third one.  So, here we go.

When I first saw this movie, I think I so badly wanted it to be great that I fooled myself into thinking that it was.  I was a huge Transformers fan as a kid and wanted so bad for it to bring back all of those memories and such from my childhood.  Then, I watched it again and discovered that it really is not very good at all.  And I'm not a purist.  I understand that they have to modernize the movie from the 80s toys and make Optimus Prime a non-flat nosed truck and make Bumblebee something other than an old VW.  As a businessman, I understand that GM paid a lot of money to have Michael Bay feature their new Camaro.  I have no problems with that.  I do have a problem with not having Megatron turn into a gun that another Decepticon has to fire.  Megatron was always the ultimate egomaniac and for him to be reliant on others for his usefulness in battle was an aspect I really liked.  They did away with that in the movie and it makes me sad.

Michael Bay does one thing well.  He knows action.  His special effects and blowing up stuff is really, really good.  All of the robots are done very well and seem believable in structure.  However, they act like robots, have dialogue like robots and, sadly, are the best actors in the movie.  Save for John Turturro, all of the human element in this film is pretty much crap.  They rely too much on trying to deliver one-liners and make reference to old Transformers stuff and past Michael Bay movies that they forgot to actually write a decent script (the reference to Armageddon almost made me want to punch myself in the face to make sure I wasn't having a bad nightmare).  The acting (both human and voice over) is just very, very bad.  There's no other way to put it.  I did enjoy Turturro's performance but I think that may have something to do with his look.  He's a goofball trying to be serious in most of his roles and it comes off as likable.

I said Michael Bay does one thing well but that's the only thing.  He is consistently bad at getting good performances out of his actors and he doesn't seem to be getting very innovative on his camera work.  There are many times that I felt like I may have been watching Bad Boys.  His use of semi-slow motion makes you feel like you are watching a music video rather than a movie which I guess is fitting because that's how he got his start.  Bay also made the movie way too long in trying to develop the human side of things.  If it had any meat to it, that would have been an OK idea.  But 40 minutes of thin and weak crap seems like 90.

It pains me to say it because I still love the whole Transformers franchise from the 80s but I cannot, in good conscience, recommend that you see this movie.  If you like action, you do get plenty of very good action.  But that is all you will get.  Everything else is actually pretty painful.  But, I will continue to be fodder for Bay's money cannon because I like Transformers.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Zookeeper Review

Let me just start by saying that, yes, the premise is ridiculous.  Kevin James is assisted by a bunch of lovable talking animals in his attempt to win back a girl.  You know going in that you are going to get a Kevin James movie.  By that I mean there's going to be a lot of him talking awkwardly and falling down.  The movie does not try to be anything else.  There's no underlying theme or moral and it is unbelievably predictable.  But it is just good, clean family fun (which is odd for a movie that has Joe Rogan in it).  As an aside, don't let the poster fool you.  They've photoshopped about 30 pounds of James on it which is good because he's at his best when he's an agile big guy.

That being said, the family aspect of the movie does seem to be a bit tacked on.  It really isn't a kid's movie.  Most of the jokes, while clean, are things that will just go over most kids' heads.  The only thing Zookeeper has going for it with the kids is the talking animals angle.  I think this made me like it even more.  They put in quite a few of those "out of left field" subtle jokes that make it even funnier (eg. It's a movie with talking animals and he takes the Gorilla to TGIFridays and all I can think is, "where did he get a guitar?").  Zookeeper does start out very slow and the first animal talking scene seems very forced and uninspired.  You start by thinking you may have wasted your money and time but, trust me, it gets a lot better quite quickly.

James and Rosario Dawson also have a really good on screen chemistry that works.  James is his typical, buffoonery self that makes me laugh out loud.  But as for the supporting cast, it's pretty weak.  Leslie Bibb and Joe Rogan are below average in their performances.  The only thing really saving Rogan was the fact that many of his lines were quite funny.  But his performance was well below anything he ever did on NewsRadio.  Ken Jeong tones down his Hangover character enough to make a half-decent reptile wrangler.  Finally, the animal voices.  For the most part, they were done well and cast well.  Sylvester Stallone, Adam Sandler, Cher, Judd Apatow, John Favreau and Faizon Love all do a very good job (especially Apatow as the Elephant).  The two that were not that great were Nick Nolte and Maya Rudolph; especially Rudolph.  She is downright horrible as the giraffe.  It is actually painful to listen to.  Nolte would have been a lot better if he hadn't made Bernie sound like a constipated Karl Childers (you know: Billy Bob Thornton in Sling Blade).  It also seemed that, at times, the jokes were a direct result of what the animal may have done at a particular time.  This made them seem a bit forced and maybe not fit.  But not enough to make it bad.

See it.  It's a refreshing change to have a comedy that makes you laugh out loud and you can take your mother to it.  You also come away feeling good and I think that's the point.  But don't see it in the first run theatre.  A lot of people are taking their kids to it and there isn't enough kid stuff in Zookeeper to keep them entertained.  The kids are getting bored and will annoy you as kids are wont to do.  But, at some point, I would say you should definitely take the time.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly Review

This was Aly's pick for movie night at Karl's.  I had never heard of it before tonight.  I knew what to expect because we do an introduction to the movies we choose for Movie Night.  Aly introduced it as a piece of art and it really is just that.  As I watched this film, I had mixed emotions all the way through and I still do.  It's the true story of Jean-Dominque Bauby; the former editor of French Elle who suffered a stroke and was stricken with "Locked-In Syndrome."

First, the film is very well made for what it is trying to accomplish.  Julian Schnabel is trying to give the viewer a feeling for what it is like to be paralyzed with the only exception being having the ability to blink.  Throughout the film, you really feel like you have an accurate idea of what that would be like.  It really is a heart wrenching tale and, similar to Dancer in the Dark, you constantly want to jump into the film and try to make everything right and interpret because, as the viewer, you know what Bauby is trying to say.  They use repetition a lot to convey how tedious his recovery is and that adds to the realism of the movie.  Even though it is a non-English language movie, I could tell that the acting was quite well done.  This is especially true of Mathieu Amalric as Bauby.  He did a superb job all the way through.

So, while I recognize that Diving Bell is done very well and sets out what is intended, I have to say I didn't enjoy it.  The first person shots through Bauby's eyes were very difficult to watch and I almost had to leave the room.  This isn't because of their emotional impact.  It is because of lack of focus and shaky cameras and jump cuts.  While it may be a realistic viewpoint, it is physically difficult to watch.  I also had a bit of an issue with the artsy shots (eg. Bauby sitting on a platform in the middle of the water).  I know these shots were trying to give us an insight into his state of mind but I really found that it disjointed the movie just enough to make me lose interest.  I know that it is a European art film and this is par for the course in that genre.  But those are normally existential pieces that are trying to convey some higher meaning.  Diving Bell sometimes seemed like it couldn't decide if it wanted to be that or a heart breaking story like Brian's Song.

My personal recommendation is don't see it.  But that is due to my personal biases towards me finding it difficult to watch.  Aly introduced it as a piece of art and she was accurate.  But if I don't find art pleasing to the eye, ear, etc., I will let you know.  You may enjoy it.  I was the only one at Movie Night that didn't.  That is the beauty of art; it's subjective to your own tastes.  Just know that you are getting a true story that gets very artsy in places.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Bridesmaids Review

A lot of the hype I heard about this movie was that it was a "The Hangover for women."  That is true.  It's got the same kind of humour as the Hangover but it is toned down slightly.  The problem with making a movie like that is that you cannot rely on the over the top and crude humour for the whole thing.  If you are going to appeal to women as a whole, you are going to have to give the story some more depth and feeling.  So, Bridesmaids becomes this hybrid of the Hangover humour and some serious romantic parts.  The problem is that it's like oil and water.  The two just did not mix.  They were unable to put the two genres in the same scenes and you get a bit of a disjointed movie.

The comedy is great.  They make it funny without pushing the envelope too far.  While I did think the food poisoning part was a bit too much, the scene with a drugged out Kristen Wiig on the airplane is priceless.  Wiig also does a really good job with her soft spoken and almost mumbling delivery that made her on Saturday Night Live.  But the best comes from Melissa McCarthy.  To continue with the Hangover comparison, she's the Zach Galifinakis character.  But she is way better.  I got tired of Galifinakis in the Hangover.  I did not get tired of McCarthy's performance.  She steals every scene.

As for the depth aspect, these parts come off as a bit boring.  The serious character and plot development in this movie tends to drag on a bit too much.  Seeing as how it's two hours long, they could have cut about ten to twenty minutes and still had a good movie.  There is an exception here.  The dynamic between Wiig and Chris O'Dowd is very good.  They had an on screen chemistry that just worked.

I say see it.  But don't pay full, first run theatre prices.  It can wait for pay per view of Netflix.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Robin Hood Review

Most of the tales and legends that come out of Medieval England are just that: tales and legends.  I don't know a whole lot about the story of Robin Hood so I don't know how much of this movie is rooted in fact and how much is pure fiction.  Given Ridley Scott's history of using factual characters in a fictional story (Marcus Aurelius and Commodus in Gladiator) I would think that most of this is fiction.  But, just like Gladiator, who cares?  It's a great story and they do a great job of telling it.

Robin Hood is proof that lightning can strike twice even if the second time around isn't quite as intense.  When I found out that Scott and Russell Crowe were going to reunite for another period piece with some factual background, I was sure it was never going to live up to what Gladiator was.  But, while it may not be quite the quality of the Roman movie, it is a very solid and well done film in its own right.  There is really nothing in the film that is groundbreaking or innovative.  But I found it a joy to watch visually and I chalk that up to great directing and excellent choices of locations.  Scott gives us just enough cool shots and slow motion to make us say, "oh, that's pretty cool" but he never tries to make the movie more than it is.

All around, this movie is very well acted.  And you'd expect that from people like Crowe, Cate Blanchette, William Hurt and Max von Sydow.  But even the supporting cast is well above par.  Matthew MacFadyen as the Sheriff of Nottingham, Mark Strong as Godfrey and Kevin Durand as Little John all bring very solid and believable performances: especially Strong.  You really get the feel of "Evil Traitor" from him.  Even Alan Doyle, a musician by trade, gives a good performance.  The only one I thought was a bit weak was Oscar Isaac as Prince John.  Most of his delivery was cheesy.  The only time I thought he was entertaining was during the climactic battle when he seemed in over his head.

See it.  It isn't a love story like Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves but more of a story of defiance and standing up for yourself like Gladiator and Braveheart.  Ultimately, it belongs right alongside those in quality.  It didn't get the attention it deserved when it was released.  That's probably because many people were thinking "been there, done that" with Gladiator.  But, if you like Gladiator and Braveheart, you should like this.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Horrible Bosses Review

When I first heard about this movie, I wanted to see it.  It's an interesting premise with some of the best comedic actors in Hollywood.  It's also got a star studded supporting cast.  It does not disappoint.  This movie is funny from the get go and really never loses that.  Yes, a lot of the really funny stuff was in the previews.  But it's still very funny in the context of the whole movie.  For example, I still laughed out loud when Jason Bateman says that he doesn't win a lot of drag races in his Prius.

Overall, the humour in Horrible Bosses comes from good writing and superior delivery by pretty much all of the actors.  In weaving a story together with six main characters like this, you need some depth to the characters.  This allows events to unfold with a reason for it happening.  In that, there is a huge potential for confusion.  But they do it in a way that isn't confusing and it's always done to further the comedy of the movie.  So you come away feeling like you've just watched not only a funny movie but a smart movie as well.

Most of the humour is a tremendous mix of Bateman's dry, awkward delivery and Charlie Day's over the top and escalating idiocy.  In fact, at times, I felt like we could have replaced Bateman and Jason Sudekis with Glenn Howerton and Rob McElhenny and we would have had a good episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.  The whole movie felt like a caper that those guys would have gotten into and Day basically plays a slightly smarter Charlie Kelly in Horrible Bosses (they even make Day ride in the back of the car; something that would definitely happen on It's Always Sunny).  But that isn't a bad thing.  Day plays it well.  The part in Horrible Bosses was written for that type of character and we're not sick of it yet.

The only thing I had a bit of a problem with was trying to believe Sudekis as a womanizer.  His look and delivery is a bit too goofy to make anyone believe the character.  But this movie isn't really about believable characters.  All three of the bosses are caricatures and mixes of bosses that many of us have had in the past.  And, with the premise of killing each other's bosses, there's bound to be many plot holes that I would tear into in a review of a different type of film.  But this is a movie where the plot is actually just a vehicle to allow the actors to make funny jokes for a couple of hours.  And it works.  In fact, they do a really good job reconciling the whole situation.  After all, the protagonists of the film are potential murderers.  How do you reconcile their goals with keeping them as cinematic heroes?  I won't give it away but I will say that they do it.  It may not be airtight, but who cares?

See it.  It is definitely worth it.  There's a lot of laughs.  Also, if you can put Jamie Foxx and Kevin Spacey in a movie now and not only make me enjoy the characters but make me wish we had seen more of them, you've done a good job.  I'm generally not a fan of either.  If you do see it, let me know if you felt that they may have been filming in Colin Farrell's actual house too?  I get the feeling that is how he lives in real life :-).

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

X3: The Last Stand Review

This movie actually has a blue, furry Kelsey Grammar saying, "oh my stars and garters."  That pretty much sums it up.  I expect comic book movies to be cheesy.  However, with the quality of the first two in the series, I expected much more from the third installment.  It is pretty bad.

The story is OK.  Humans have found a "cure" for mutants and the mutants fight against it.  The problem is, while the story is OK, the writing definitely is not.  A lot of the lines between mutants seem to be inside jokes and come off awkward.  It also doesn't help that they ran out of ideas for cool mutations.  The main characters are still OK but almost all of the peripheral mutants' powers are just laughable.  For example, what kind of lame power is being able write on paper by just waving your hand over the paper?  It's reminiscent of Meg from Family Guy being able to grow her fingernails.

It, once again, brings forth the argument: does bad writing cause bad acting or does bad acting make the writing seem bad?  Once again, it is the former.  The only half-decent performance is from Hugh Jackman.  The talents of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan are wasted.  In fact, I think they were just phoning it in; especially McKellan.  And I'm pretty sure they replaced Kelsey Grammar with a Kelsey Grammar robot.

Fortunately, I think this is the last we will see in this storyline.  We'll probably continue to get Origins movies like Wolverine and First Class (which completely contradicts the first few minutes of this one) but I can't see them trying to resurrect this line.  Don't see it.  The effects, while good, are nothing new and not enough to make it worthwhile.  And the "cliffhanger" from the second one isn't compelling enough to make it necessary.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Jane Doe Review

This will be a very short review.  Everything about this movie is bad.  And it isn't even one of those, "so bad it's good" things.  The acting, writing, directing, camera work.  All of it is bad.  Some is worse than others but there is absolutely nothing redeeming about this movie.  I even regret paying $4 for it in a Sears bargain bin.  It is proof that even halfway decent actors cannot save a terrible script.  Rob Lowe and Teri Hatcher aren't bad actors.  But in this, they are brutal.  That being said, I do need to even single out one person for their absolute suckiness.  Alex Karzis brings new levels to being horrible.  I'm normally one to give people another chance and try to find something good in every film but he should actually never be given another role just to punish him for this.

Don't see it.  In fact, if you see it in a bargain bin, it is your duty as a film fan to buy all of the copies and burn them to save other people having to endure this.

It's so bad.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Rubber Review

This is what you would get if Stephen King and Jim Henson had been able to collaborate on writing an episode of Seinfeld.  It is a non-sensical, comedic film where really nothing happens.  But the thing is, it was introduced that way and I knew sort of what to expect because of my research.  It starts out by saying that it is an homage to the phrase, "no reason."  As in, "why did you do that?" "No reason."  There really is no point to anything in this film and that is entirely intentional.  The basic premise is that there is this tire, Robert, that becomes self-aware and can kill people with tele-kinetic powers and the cops try to stop him.  That's it.  It's really nothing more than that.  There is no real plot progression and, for 80 minutes, non-sensical things happen; much like a Seinfeld episode.  But, I reiterate, that is the whole point of the movie.

On the technical side of things, I must say I was quite surprised.  This movie is beautifully shot.  The camera work is some of the finest I have seen in a while.  There are numerous points of view and focal points that are used that really make it a treat to watch.  There is also a lot of humour and I found myself laughing a lot at the sheer idiocy of the situation and the unexpected comedy bits.  Just when you think there might be some depth or progression, they throw a little comedic scene or shot at you that derails any consistency in the story.  In this way it was a bit contradictory in how it made me feel.  On the one hand, I was laughing a lot.  And, on the other hand, I did start to find it quite boring.  When it's boiled down, it is just a vibrating tire and heads exploding.  That's it.  Even with decent and unexpected comedy bits thrown in, they do prove that a movie does have to have some sort of progression to keep the interest of the audience.

Finally, the acting.  It is piss poor for the most part with one exception.  Stephen Spinella is great as the head cop.  His acting is understated and believable which is really a coup for him because just about everything he is required to do and say in this movie is beyond ridiculous.  But, for the rest of the cast, it is very bad with the odd exception of a good delivery here and there.  I will note, though, that the script is pretty bad and they didn't have much to work with.  But that doesn't justify the acting's poorness.

I give Rubber a See recommendation if you fit into one of two categories: first, you are a huge film buff and like to see different things and really cool camera work.  Second, see it if you are in the mood for 80 minutes of idiocy and "no reason."  That is not a bad thing if that's what you want.  That's what got me to see it in the first place.  But, for most of the people out there, I would say don't see it.  It isn't for a casual "hey, let's watch a movie tonight" kind of evening.  It takes a special and different kind of person to enjoy a film like Rubber.  Most of the general population does not fit into this category and would feel like they've wasted their money.

Scott Pilgrim vs the World Review

I reviewed this movie on facebook when I first saw it in the theatre.  I loved it then and I love it now.  It is absolutely brilliant.  While I've never read the comic books that it is based on, I imagine that it is very true to them.  This is because you actually feel like you are immersed in a comic book for the whole two hours.  It utilizes weird sound effects, cutaways that feel like they're actually comic panes and contrasting colour and lighting that feels real yet surreal at the same time.  Scott Pilgrim also stays very consistent.  In most movies, there are one or two parts that just don't feel like they belong.  This usually happens in the middle or near the end.  But this film doesn't have that.  It flows very well.  The viewer does have to pay attention though.  While there is plenty of obvious and out there humour to keep you entertained, there is also a lot of subtlety that you really have to pay attention to get.

What makes this movie great, though is the combination of directing and acting.  The whole thing is brilliantly directed by Edgar Wright.  The visuals and special effects are fantastic.  Like I said, they make you feel like you are in a live action comic book.  I also really liked the video game motif throughout the whole thing.  That was quite original and very well done.

The movie is also excellently cast which allows for the great acting.  There isn't a character in the film that isn't made believable simply because they got the right person to play it.  The two that really stick out though are Michael Cera and Kieran Culkin.  Cera has always been able to play the geeky, quiet, awkward guy right from his days as George Michael Bluth on Arrested Development.  Here, he takes it to the next level because, while Scott Pilgrim seems to be a bit of a weirdo and kind of a loser, you really connect with him and want to be him.  Kieran Culkin steals every scene he's in.  His part is definitely supporting.  He doesn't dominate any of his scenes like John Malkovich in RED or Steve Carrell in Anchorman (two roles where they do steal every scene) but, without Culkin being the understated, cool friend, those scenes would have fell flat.

Definitely see it.  It is not only a good story and good movie, it is presented in such a unique and interesting way.  It takes a realistic setting and brings in ludicrous fantasy in a fun and visually different way.  It is definitely not just more of the same in a comedy or comic book movie.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Dead Fish Review

When you get the success that Guy Ritchie had with Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, you wind up with a lot of imitators.  This is one of those.  It's another one of those English-style gangster movies that tries to be cooler than it can, much like Layer Cake, Smoking Aces and Lucky Number Slevin.  While there are some good things about Dead Fish, it really winds up being another imitator that just can't live up to its predecessors.

I'll start with the acting.  Overall, it isn't that bad.  Robert Carlyle is pretty decent as the over the top blowhard that just wants his money.  Billy Zane is pretty good too as the guy who is proper English in a very quirky way.  The others, however, are either just OK or downright bad.  Gary Oldman is OK.  I know his character is supposed to be weird to lend an air of humour to the film but he just comes off as this psycho that you really can't care about at all.  Playing a stoner should be a fairly easy thing but Jimi Mistry is not convincing at all.  Finally, Andrew Lee Potts falls flat as the main hero, much like Josh Hartnett in Slevin.

I also had a problem with the directing.  Rather than stay with that gritty London Underworld feel that these movies need, the director decided to have some artsy shots that just didn't fit.  The best example is the argument shot through the hotel door peephole.  All it did was muffle the actors voices and irritate me.

The good in this movie would be the humour.  There are numerous times when they do actually succeed in making me laugh.  While it isn't as good as, say, The Last Boy Scout for an action/comedy, I did find that I was smiling quite a bit during it.  This is especially true when Zane is on screen.  He really does steal his scenes.

Don't see it.  It is fairly low on the ladder for its genre.  Guy Ritchie's movies are a much better option.  Even if you've seen those, their rewatchability is better than Dead Fish for the first time.  It's weird though.  Dead Fish isn't a terrible movie.  I would just say it's below average and Carlyle and Zane just aren't enough.